Archive for February 28th, 2011

AALL Vendor Colloquium Keynote Part Two

Legal Research/Publishing Trends
Continuing her remarks, Roberta Shaffer, law librarian of Congress, noted that we know little of how lawyers think about how they research. We know eye movements, but we don’t know the intellectual process – the ambiguous reasoning they go through as they research. One of our collective challenges is figuring out how to understand the process and how to quantify and quality control test it.“Authority,” traditionally related to hierarchy or jurisdiction maturity or Hart’s Rule or Frequency based on frequency of citations, is evolving:

  1. availability as authority, namely the more widely and frequently available a source, the greater the authority accorded to that source
  2. consensus through tweets or blogs

Thus, authority now comes from more places, namely blawgs and blogs, and is less structured because there’s no publisher/editorial review of the blogs.

While much legal content still originates in print, more content is starting digital and remaining digital. This makes it easier for more people to enter the legal publishing “space.”

The sciences have adopted digital publishing faster than the law; perhaps because of law’s reliance on precedence and an outmoded self-perception that books or print is more scholarly for lawyers than online. In addition, science often thinks that the “answer” is found through experimentation rather than researching in existing content.

Changing Players and Roles on the [Legal] Information Field
This part of Shaffer’s presentation began with alliteration: “contents, conduits, contexts, and conductors – who are the legal information publishers, pirates, passers-by, pre-publishers, post-publishers, protectors and purveyors?”

With all of today’s rapid changes, what’s the business model and criteria used to acquire, develop, market, refresh, and maintain content? What are the new skill sets needed by researchers, librarians, and publishers?

Librarians and publishers need to combine the innovation of companies like Apple with the customer service focus of companies like Zappos. Shaffer believes that once you have a reputation for innovation, consumers will trust you more than before. Zappos believes customers are its primary reason for existing. They test applicants on their abilities to make decisions on the fly to solve customers’ problems

Shaffer challenged publishers to innovate and take risks like Apple, while being highly customer service oriented like Zappos – empowering the customer service person to make decisions.

She also noted a recent Outsell study that found content producers with libraries had a higher ROI than those without.

Discussion Points
This portion of the presentation was question/answer with some discussions. (The questions and answers below are paraphrased and not an exact transcript.)

Q: Why are fewer readers going to law reviews to identify trends?

A: Because of the “scholarly” language used by law reviews. Readers expect shorter sentences, shorter articles, shorter words; look at the vocabulary and the text of the New York Times magazine and the New Yorker, which use simpler language now than they did previously. Law reviews are too theoretical and do not include enough fact matching or practical value.

Scientists now use conversations and electronic journals instead of traditional print. That scientific communication may be a marker of how legal scholarly communication may evolve. Further external drivers may come from scholars from other disciplines training in law – their communication style will change the legal communication style.

Q: There’s a lag time for legal publishers in bringing e-books to market because of difficulties with negotiating contracts with Apple and Amazon for e-books. How is the Library of Congress preparing for e-books?

A: The Library of Congress is concerned about e-books. LC adds about 12 percent of the exemplars submitted for copyright to the collection. LC uses the rest in their exchange programs with other national libraries.  If the exemplar is electronic, what can LC do with it?

Shaffer noted concerns for authenticity and preservation of e-content as primary right now.

Q: What could stop society’s current trend of self-selecting information (resulting in silos) and return to more shared common-knowledge?

A: This trend may not be a bad thing. More important than knowing the same stuff is to have the ability to develop a basis to build a collaborative team. “Common knowledge” may be an anachronism; the “Three Rs” of education inadequately define what people need to know. A collaboration model where disparate individuals and groups learn from each other tends to produce better solutions.

Large publishers are silos; their legal, science, and business divisions have different business models and different content collections and delivery. There is an opportunity for collaboration if the publishers break down these silos.

As an example of collaboration, the LC used GIS to link addresses of new patents to show where innovation is happening in the United States. This information can have an impact of government spending to encourage and enhance areas of innovation.

Q: Are different sources for legal information (blogs and podcasts) increasing in importance? Why?

A: There are fewer barriers of entrance for these sources. But, what kind of authority are they? By consensus? How do librarians respond? By managing them, maintaining them, and creating access to them?

Q: If libraries began storing and organizing blogs and other new web-based sources, could they become authority?

A: Yes, if we take the science model as an example, but scientists tend to believe the answer doesn’t already exist and must be found through experiment.

One vendor participant noted that bloggers may become the new treatise authors, which leads to a host of additional questions. What kind of publication is it? If it’s co-mingled, where does the copyright ownership lie?

AALL Vendor Colloquium Keynote Part One

Roberta Shaffer, law librarian of Congress, began her keynote remarks by stating assumptions to create some “common knowledge.” Law librarians and publishers share responsibilities for preserving and organizing the “Rule of Law.” We should recognize that the language of law has changed – from Latin, Law French – and will continue to change. Will future generations understand how we communicated the rule of law in the early 21st century?

We have shared fears about the future and the viability of our organizations. We know that the written word is powerful; but new technology appears to supplant pure text with combinations of text, video, and audio.

Law exists across disciplines and across the past, present, and future. That means we act aware of science and sociology, as well as the historical sources of law, the current sources of law, and how law will be produced and consumed in the future.

Our capacity for memory and comprehension will change. It changes because we’re using our minds differently and because bionics and drugs will enhance our abilities.

Law, as a coral reef, grows from many sources rather than a skyscraper

Socio-Info Trends
Shaffer next reviewed trends facing us all. The volume of information overload now exceeds the equivalent of receiving 174 newspapers worth of information daily and sending six newspapers worth of information daily. End users have reduced attention spans and expect visualizations of information results.

Our vocabulary has changed – we use shorter sentences and shorter words to help us cope with information overload. Our vocabulary may shrink so that we can communicate across cultures; perhaps even like air traffic controllers who limit all their instructions to 600 words. These have disrupted the traditional information flow to new formats, including of course social media.

Our society has less “common knowledge”; more facts are known, but fewer people know the same fact. In addition we have a desire to know more – “let me see how you make that sausage” – about almost everything.

Shifting cultural geographic centers to Brazil and China with different relative values of individuals v. community where other cultures have a lower value of the individual rights.

Legal Trends/Law Practice
Shaffer described the trends that started with the traditional law library of many books with attorneys believing that “the law” exists somewhere in the books. But now there are more first impression cases based on unique facts, which encourages looking for a legal point that matches a set of facts, i.e. finding and following the facts.

This leads to reading fewer law reviews because law reviews have such a long publication lead time and deal with more theory than practical issues. Legal researchers want direct access to more information with minimal assistance of librarians – at lower costs. Law firm clients expect lower costs as well.

Shaffer faults legal education for teaching in silos with edited casebooks providing the key elements so that the student doesn’t need to learn how to analyze across subject matter disciplines.

Stay tuned for part two.

Further Q & A: on The “Why, Who, What, How, Where and When?” of the Colloquium.

Who did the work?

The Vendor Colloquium Planning Committee, Joyce Manna Janto; Kate Hagan; Michael Bernier; Anne Ellis; Ann Fessenden; Richard Leiter; Linda Lev-Dunton; Robert Myers; Richard J. Spinelli; Cindy Spohr; and Committee Chair Steve Anderson, held one face-to-face meeting during the 2010 AALL Annual Meeting in Denver. It completed the rest of its work by conference calls and email.

To share the committee’s work process I’ve organized the minutes of the four meetings topically below.

Why hold the colloquium?

  1. To discuss what information creation and dissemination (“publishing”) means today with the rise of blogs, etc.
  2. To better understand the continuum of information flow, including the roles of editors and aggregators of third-party content
  3. To make AALL members aware of this new environment
  4. To make vendors aware of the challenges that librarians have
  5. To collaborate on developing a white paper or other statement reflecting the discussions on these topics

Who is attending?

Invited attendees should be “high level” representatives of the vendor and law library communities, potentially including individuals from library oversight boards (e.g., managing partners of law firms, judges, etc.).

Committee members agreed that the invitees should include:

  • two executive representatives from the five vendors represented
  • 13 committee members (including Kate Hagan)
  • two law library representatives of each “library-type special interest section (SIS)” (for a total of six)
  • two “library board”/institutional end-user representatives of each “library-type SIS” (for a total of six)
  • the AALL vice president
  • the new vendor relations representative

Members strongly favored diverse representation of law librarians to include younger, active librarians and librarians from a variety of job positions.  Members also endorsed the concept of inviting leaders of law library governance boards, such as deans, managing law firm partners, and judges.

The committee asked the chairs of each “library-type SIS” to identify and suggest to the AALL president a suitable pool of potential attendees. The president selected the final attendees, based on the available slots.

What is the structure?

The Colloquium will be approximately two days long, consisting of prepared, shared questions, and facilitated dialogue on topics to be mutually developed by the committee.

How did the structure develop?

The committee reviewed previous AALL colloquia, researched and solicited topics for discussion, created a “briefing book” for attendees.

The process for selecting background reading materials:

  1. A small subcommittee chose background reading materials for the committee’s use. This provided the basis for the final briefing book for attendees.
  2. Based in part on this reading material, committee members sought suggested discussion topics from their constituency groups and organizations.
  3. The entire committee reviewed the subcommittee’s selections and agreed the collection should include the most relevant articles.
  4. The committee requested a two-page summary of its organization from each vendor.

The process for selecting the questions to spur topics of discussion:

AALL asked the three “library-type” SISs and vendor community in November two questions:

  1. “If you could ask a legal publisher/law librarian five questions, what would they be?”
  2. “If you could tell a legal publisher/law librarian five things about your industry/library, what would they be?”

The chair organized the responses and the committee reviewed the compilation and suggested some changes for the two documents that became “librarians” and “vendors” responses.

How to structure the colloquium?

  • professionally facilitated by Maureen Sullivan, experienced with AALL
  • an opening keynote speaker session, Roberta Shaffer, law librarian of the Law Library of Congress
  • followed by targeted presentations, discussions, and roundtables

How to communicate to members?

Because the AALL Spectrum publication schedule does not permit publication soon enough, the committee asked Spectrum Editorial Director Mark Estes to attend as a reporter, not a participant, to blog about the days activities.

Where will the Colloquium be held?

Chicago, because it’s centrally located for all potential attendees.

Facilities arrangements:

  • No assigned seating
  • A podium with microphone
  • Small, round tables for breakout discussions
  • If possible, the large seating arranged in a chevron
  • No AV equipment to keep the discussions low-tech and more communal
  • Flipcharts available
  • No taping of the colloquium
  • The dress attire is business casual

When will the Colloquium be held?

February, attendees arriving the evening of Sunday, February 27th, so that the Colloquium would begin at 9 a.m. on the 28th. The Colloquium will conclude at approximately 3 p.m. on March 1st, allowing attendees to return home that evening.

posted by Mark Estes

February 2011

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